My friend and fellow Christian (and Lutheran ðŸ™‚ ) Bob alerted me to this whole incident when I thought the case should have been closed after hearing of Makkal Osai offering their apologies. Life should have moved on until we heard of their suspension. The fact is our Christian faith is not treated by any altered picture or even parody. I do not think this event would “endanger public order”. It may be inappropriate (as well as an innocent mistake with no intention to hurt others) , of course, some may be more offended than others. But it doesn’t have to be a big deal. At least, it’s not for me , I’m a Christian. I’m serving as a pastor. I’m not fuming with anger and waving my Bible demanding for justice and punishment on them (I admit I was a little disturbed but not shaken or over concerned). I’ll need to hear from my Roman Catholic friends how they feel. I’m a little puzzled by the action against this mistake when not too long ago I read of more serious remarks quoted in the blog post Are Christians lepers? (where there was a call for an apology – I haven’t heard anything on that yet. Apparently, there’s No Action Against UMNO Supporters’ Website? on that matter.) All these latest developments, may cause some discomfort for some, it does force us to pause and wonder what on earth is going on in our media whether it’s online or off line.
Overall, I think as Christians we would like to focus our energies and intelligence to deal with unjust and unfair issues which concerns us ALL than to be preoccupied with a tweaked image of Jesus (which the paper as already admitted their error and apologized for it). So far all the official statements from the MCCBCHST and the CCM seem to indicate, “It’s over now, let’s move on”. But since there were comments made on banning them and I was surprised that a political party was even more zealous in taking action than the Christians, I’ll repost Bob’s post for some update and commentary, for catching up on the story read Holy Smokin’ Jesus Controversy Paper Suspended! (Updated) first. Take note of the comments (at least the level headed ones) :
Lift The Suspension Of Makkal Osai Immediately!
Do Not Use My Faith As An Excuse For Oppression!
When the Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malaysia (ELCM), Rev Dr Julius Paul, went on the record to ask for the banning of Makkal Osai in the aftermath of the publishing of a doctored picture of the Sacred Heart with Jesus portrayed as holding a cigarette and a can of beer, I don’t think he realised the wider implications of his statement.
Malaysiakini has now reported that Makkal Osai has been suspended for 30 days by the Ministry of Internal Security as the “publication of the image was inappropriate and could endanger public order“. Now, let’s look at what this means ..
.. for starters, it is common knowledge that the space for discourse on civil society and community issues within the Tamil speaking community in Malaysia is very limited and generally dominated by the government owned media (like RTM) or MIC owned mouthpieces. This same sorry situation is replicated in a lot of civic organisations that the community participates in.
Makkal Osai has generally been much more independent in its editorial policy and has recently been doing a series of in-depth reports on an issue that MIC very much wants people to forget .. the alleged mismanagement of Maika Holdings. By coming out in public to demand for the banning of a newspaper due to an incident that the paper has apologised for and the main aggrieved party (ie. the Roman Catholic Church) has seen fit to consider closed could only have strengthened the hands of those who would like to shut down this inconvenient publication.
The Bishop, representing a denomination that makes up approximately 0.1% of the Christian population in Malaysia, has essentially, by the nature of his office and the authority that the office comes with, implicated the almost 3 million strong Christian community in this country in an exercise to further reduce the already restricted space available for civic discourse for the Tamil speaking Indian community in Malaysia. Whether or not this will drive the wedge between the Christian community and the Indian community (which are primarily Hindu) remains to be seen.
As a Lutheran myself, albeit from a sister denomination, I am ashamed that Lutheranism has lent its name to this subtle exercise in the suppression of civic discourse. It is bad enough that the Church tends to remain silent when abuses of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights occur in this country. To be a party of such abuse is a real jaw dropping moment!
Perhaps the Bishop would do well to have a look at what the Church of Sweden, the companion synod of the ELCM, and the larger Lutheran communion has had to say about the churches role in ensuring social justice be done and the church acting as agents of change:
- Justice Cannot Wait
– Dr Rogate Mshana
- Churches as Agents of Change
– Ms Karin Åkerlund and Ms Lena Furberg
- Towards a Fair, Equal and Sustainable Society
– The International Mission of the Church of Sweden
- The Church in Society
– The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
- About Advocacy
– Lutheran Advocacy
As a Christian, I urge my fellow Christians to join me to say NO to Makkal Osai’s suspension and urge that it be lifted. This perhaps can be one way we can seek to salvage this sorry state of affairs and start on a journey of reconciliation.
I am a Christian* Malaysian and I was not offended by the accidental depiction of a picture of Jesus Christ holding a cigarette and a beer can in Makkal Osai. Lift The Suspension Of Makkal Osai Immediately!
Do Not Use My Faith As An Excuse For Oppression!Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
* strike off if not applicable